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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Vols Grab No. 1 Ranking

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxNo one expected Butch Jones to do this in his first six months as Tennessee’s head coach.

Jones took over the Vols on Dec. 7 following their third straight losing season and fourth in five years. Derek Dooley had just finished a historically bad three-year run as Tennessee’s coach, causing plenty of concern about the program, especially on the recruiting trail.

The concern appears to have been lifted as Tennessee received its 14th commitment for the 2014 class Thursday from defensive end Joe Henderson from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Henderson’s pledge has moved Tennessee to No. 1 in the nation in the Rivals 2014 class rankings. It’s a quick rise for Tennessee, which struggled closing out the 2013 class and finished with the 23rd-best class in the nation, 10th best in the SEC.

Henderson told it was his close relationship with Tennessee’s coaches that led him to pick the Vols.

“Just how the coaches are top of the line coaches under Coach Jones,” Henderson said. “Me getting to know them, I’ve known them for at least two years and they give me advice with anything and help me with anything and we’re still building that relationship. I just noticed how you can just go to them and tell them anything.”

Anything seems possible with Tennessee’s recruiting now that the Vols have taken over the nation’s No. 1 ranking. Of course, Tennessee is helped by the fact it leads the nation with its 14 commitments, tied with Louisville and Texas. Signing day is still eight months away and it will be difficult for Tennessee to keep the top ranking.

But Tennessee’s coaching staff showed in March it planned to make a quick impact in recruiting when it landed commitments from running back Jalen Hurd from Hendersonville, Tenn., safety Todd Kelly Jr. from Knoxville, Tenn., and running back Treyvon Paulk from Alpharetta, Ga.

Tennessee will attempt to use Henderson’s commitment and the No. 1 ranking to create more momentum heading into the summer months.

The Vols continue to be in the mix with several in-state prospects, including athletes Derek Barnett and Rashaan Gaulden and wide receiver Josh Malone. And Tennessee has been able to convince out-of-state recruits to visit Knoxville, helping land commitments from prospects like Henderson, offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. and cornerback D’Andre Payne.

Tennessee still has a lot of work to do to hold onto its commitments and add to the list, which could grow to 31 signees by February. The Vols will likely have a hard time on the field this fall, which the coaching staff will have to manage on the recruiting trail.

But it’s clear prospects have regained their confidence in Tennessee’s program.

“I can see what they’re going to do and they’re going to build on Tennessee and bring it back to where it’s supposed to be,” Henderson said.


Alabama lands California lineman

Offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao from Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., went public with his commitment to Alabama on Thursday.

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